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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Wimbledon 2017: Five players set to take advantage of Serena Williams' absence

As the seven-time champion sits out this year's tournament, we look at five players who could go all the way at the All England Club.

Kristina Pliskova starts Wimbledon as the pre-tournament favourite. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Kristina Pliskova starts Wimbledon as the pre-tournament favourite. Glyn Kirk / AFP

In the absence of defending champion Serena Williams, the women's singles event at Wimbledon looks wide open, with several players capable of claiming the title. Here, Jon Turner picks five contenders who could be celebrating at the All England Club in two weeks' time.

Karolina Pliskova: The favourite

It is difficult to look past the Czech world No 3 as a serious Wimbledon contender this year. Has adapted well to the grass by taking the title at Eastbourne last week, beating an in-form Caroline Wozniacki in a fairly routine win. With thunderous groundstrokes and the best serve in the women's game (Williams notwithstanding), it is little wonder Pliskova, 25, has been installed as the pre-tournament favourite. Her lack of mobility compared to other top players can be a problem when her big groundstrokes are not all firing, but at Wimbledon, where power plays such a big role, she will fancy her chances.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova: The Comeback queen

A two-time Wimbledon champion and one of the most affable players on the WTA Tour, even under normal circumstances Kvitova would have a wave of support behind her at SW19. But these are not normal circumstances. Attacked in her home in December by an armed intruder, Kvitova sustained knife wounds to her playing hand that threatened to end her career. Instead, she made a quicker than expected return to action at the French Open last month before winning a title in her second outing since the attack in Birmingham two weeks ago. The Czech world No 12 has a game perfectly suited to grass, with a huge forehand and dangerous serve. Consistency might be an issue given her time away, but with her new-found "fearless" attitude since the attack, Kvitova can could go all the way.

Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta: The local hope

Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 has Britain had a better chance of crowning a women's champion at Wimbledon. Konta, the Australian-born world No 7, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the rankings to establish herself firmly among the elite. Konta displayed just what she is capable of last week in Eastbourne when she beat French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and world No 1 Angelique Kerber in the same day. A nasty fall during her win over Kerber resulted in a back injury that saw her withdraw from her semi-final. How she recovers from the injury could make all the difference at Wimbledon. A player with good variation, athleticism, and enough power to be noticed, Konta is a serious contender - injury-permitting.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams: The seasoned veteran

It has been a difficult build-up for the older Williams sister, who in June was involved in a car crash that resulted in the death of a passenger in the car she hit. Williams posted on social media the incident had left her "devastated and heartbroken", as she returns to Wimbledon where, despite being in the latter stages of her career, should be considered a major challenger. Williams, 37, is a five-time Wimbledon champion and has reached a further three finals. It is safe to say then she enjoys her time on the grass courts of London. Granted her last final appearance came in 2009 and her last title the year before that, but it is sister Serena who has largely dominated since. Her march to the Australian Open final - where she lost to Serena - proved she still has the endurance to go all the way. This could be her best chance to claim Wimbledon title No 6.

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty: The wild card

One of the most alluring aspects of the women's singles event is the strong possibility of an unlikely player going the distance. Ostapenko entered the French Open ranked No 47 before winning the title; Flavia Pennetta was ranked No 26 before her 2015 US Open triumph, while Marion Bartoli's 2013 Wimbledon victory defied all expectations. Barty has proved her ability on the grass courts far exceeds her ranking of 56, and the Australian has a real chance of going far at Wimbledon. Wins over world No 22 Barbora Strycova and former Wimbledon finallist Garbine Muguruza in Birmingham showed just how comfortable Barty is on the surface, and she had Kvitova on the ropes in the final before the Czech powered her way out of trouble. Barty, 21, faces fourth seed Elina Svitolina in the first round, and should she defeat the Ukrainian, will enjoy a relatively serene route through the first week. She definitely has the ability, and potentially kind draw, to make things interesting.